Review Summary: A fan's dream. Crowd favourites with B-sid marvels that have a life of their own. Gomez show again why being cursed by Mercury, ain't so bad, if you can produce gems like these.
I have always had a fascination when a band releases B-sides and rarities. I mean, I’m fascinated twofold. Firstly, I love to listen to the song in context to the album it was recorded for (if it was at all) and secondly, love to analyse why the song never made it in the first place. I think it’s because in a band dynamic, when they are going through what makes the cut and what doesn’t, you wish you were a fly on the wall, hearing the discussions. Does it fit our theme?, “The lyrics are weak”, “There’s no hook man!” “It’s way too experimental”, Who do you think we are??. Radiohead!!
Gomez have never been one to shy away from releasing their “Chuck Steak” songs to their adoring fans. In fact, the last offering “Abandoned Shopping Trolley” was as good if not better than the album released earlier “Liquid Skin”. The reasons were simple. Gomez were able to stretch out a bit, try some new things, use instruments they had never used before, put some studio trickery on songs that before, were pretty much straight up guitar numbers. However, unlike “Abandoned Shopping Trolley” which contained re-mixed fan favorites with added B-side junkets, composed solely for folly with no album intentions, “Five Men in a Hut” actually has recordings that must have just missed out from their five studio albums.
Let’s get one thing straight. Gomez is a blues-rock band. They have three guitarists, three singers (all with different vocal pitches) and a great drummer. So as a fan you are use to songs that are stripped down, super crunchy, guitar heavy. Rhythmic pounding on the guitar strings creating a bluesy Pearl Jam sound. Gomez use both acoustic and electric guitars, so songs such as the great “Bring it On” ,“Catch Me Up” and “Whippin Piccadilly” rock hard, but aren’t drowned out by the heavy, heavy layers of sound. However they also show sweet touches of finger picking marvels mixed with harmonizing vocals “ Sweet Virginia” is one classic example.
So when the very odd “ZYX” with it’s vocoder rhythms, coupled with the Depech Mode electronica of “Air Hostess Song” puzzles your mind, you can relate that hey, this song might have accompanied “In Our Gun” the experimental dub album. Or when you hear the country/western B-side “Tanglin” you can pinpoint, that one maybe came from “Split the Difference”. The thing is, each of the new songs are excellent and can be enjoyed without the analysis. “Step Inside” sounds like a Pink Floyd experiment, swirling vocals, minimalist music and the hard rocking “Royalty” sounds like a band laying on the guitar, the pop melodies and having fun. Top this off with an excellent rendition of Charlie Patton’s “Mississippi Boweevil Blues’ and you pretty much have covered off all types of musical experiments Gomez have attempted in the last seven years.
Gomez are still looking for that elusive breakthrough album that shoots them into the consciousness of the rock world. If you want hard rocking blues, soft melodic ballads, three part harmonies and a drummer who rocks harder than Pete Moon, than Gomez and “Five Men in a Hut: Singles 1998 – 2004” is a perfect album for fans and non fans alike.